Suzanne Moore announced her departure as a columnist for The Guardian last Monday after writing for the British newspaper for roughly three decades.
"I have left The Guardian. I will very much miss SOME of the people there. For now that's all I can say," Moore tweeted along with a still image of Elisabeth Moss' character similarly quitting her job on "Mad Men."
Moore was the latest journalist who has publicly exited a news organization based on newsroom tensions, joining Glenn Greenwald from The Intercept, Bari Weiss from The New York Times, Andrew Sullivan from New York magazine, and Matthew Yglesias from Vox.
On Tuesday, Moore wrote an essay in Unherd about "why I had to leave The Guardian."
"It is March 2020. For several months now I have been trying to write something — anything — about the so-called 'trans debate' in my Guardian column. But if I ever slip a line in about female experience belonging to people with female bodies, and the significance of this, it is always subbed out. It is disappeared," Moore began the essay. "Somehow, this very idea is being blocked, not explicitly, but it certainly isn’t being published. My editors say things like: 'It didn’t really add to the argument', or it is a 'distraction' from the argument."
"Even though I’d been writing for them for decades, editors consistently try to steer me towards 'lifestyle' subjects for my column. One even suggests that I shouldn’t touch politics at all. And yet I won the Orwell Prize for political journalism the year before. This was for articles on Brexit and war remembrance, among other things," Moore explained. "Maybe they were steering me away from certain subjects because they thought they were dealing with some mad old bint, or maybe they were scared and had been indoctrinated into the cult of righteousness that the Guardian embodies. At its best, the paper deserves to see itself as a beacon of the Left, but lately it has been hard to define what the Left consists of beyond smug affirmation."
Moore argued that journalism has been "in a strange place lately" and that it was "unsure of itself and what it should be doing and giving itself away for free."
"So, I finally get to write a piece on trans issues. And 338 'colleagues' write a letter of complaint to the editor, alluding to that column," Moore said.
The columnist wondered why she was treated "so appallingly" at The Guardian, writing, "So what did I do that was so terrible? I stepped outside the orthodoxy."
"The truth was, and remains that I never fitted in at the Guardian. The personal becomes political at the moment you never feel clean enough. I was always somehow inappropriate," Moore wrote. "I would describe my approach as: lobbing in some Molotov cocktails, some cultural analysis and some jokes. Not to buy into groupthink and in the end ... entertainment. People should want to read what you write. I know this is verboten: actual pleasure. I chose not to go into the office. I still did not belong, having strayed from the true and rightful path."
Moore recalled the viral backlash she received in 2013 after she referred to "Brazilian transsexual" as an "ideal body shape" in an essay she had written, something she admitted was wrong for its time.
"While I was trying to emphasize the impossibility of the ideals for women, maybe I had been thoughtless. I hadn’t actually killed anyone. Yet the backlash that hit me, online and offline, was like nothing else," Moore explained. "And you have to understand I have been threatened in the past by the fascist group Combat 18 for my columns — on multiculturalism, immigration, being pro-choice and in favour of gay rights. ... I had panic buttons installed in my house. I would get phone calls at home with threats saying they knew I had kids so they wouldn’t kill me, just disable me. As ever I just got on with it. What else can you do?"
She later recalled a message she received from a fellow Guardian columnist who accused her of "transphobia" and "Islamophobia," and when she complained to her editor, nothing was done because neither were technically "staff" for the paper.
"I wrote that I believed biological sex to be real and that it’s not transphobic to understand basic science. To my mind the column was fairly mild," the columnist wrote, "even years of this sort of abuse now, and no one from the Guardian had ever spoken to me about it. I just carried on. Do they care? Why should they? They should care, if they truly want more 'diversity' in journalism, but that’s a lie which liberals tell themselves. How can you bring on working-class writers if you damn them for not knowing the codes upon which the media runs? If you won’t tolerate the heresies of outsiders? If — gasp — they haven’t been to Oxbridge?"
"My experience is that I have been censored more by the Left than the Right and it gives me no pleasure to say that. Laziness of thought is my big fear, this unthinking adherence to some simplistic orthodoxy. There are values and there is experience and there are people. Complicated f---ers, all of us."
Moore then addressed the letter that was sent to the editor, saying they were "disappointed" that The Guardian published "anti-trans views" and how repeatedly doing so "cemented our reputation as a publication hostile to trans rights and trans employees."
"Not one of them had the decency to pick up the phone to me. Should The Guardian be a welcoming place for trans people to work in? Yes of course it bloody well should. Should it be a place where we discuss complicated issues? Again yes," Moore wrote. "The letter made it clear to me that it wasn’t just social media activists who wanted me out of the paper. My fellow staff were gunning for me: time to hand over my job to the young Corbyn crew who spend their lives slagging off the mainstream media but cannot wait to be part of it. Could they write a good sentence? Say something from the heart? Does that matter? Apparently not, they simply think the right things."
"I was devastated to find people who I like and had worked with had done this. In 30 years of journalism I have often disagreed with people and had stand-up rows with them but no one has ever done something so underhand as to try and get someone fired because of one column," she continued. "I felt f---ing awful. Well, how would you feel if 338 colleagues basically bullied you?... Mistakenly, I thought my editors would stand up for me because that was my experience at other papers; or they might issue a public statement. They didn’t. There was some internal email, and I hear it was discussed at the Scott Trust, which governs the paper. What this means I genuinely have no idea. Nor do I understand what editorial independence means any more. Do they? Not in my book. This to me was utter cowardice. Shouldn’t you stand by your writers? But on this issue the Guardian has run scared."
On why she has spoken out, she wrote, "The censorship continues and I cannot abide it. Every day another woman loses her job and a witch-burning occurs on Twitter. My fear is not about trans people but an ideology that means the erasure of women — not just the word, but of our ability to name and describe our experience. We are now cervix-havers, birthing parents, people who menstruate."
"This is a story about a feminist who started to see things going backwards and wanted to tell the world. This is not a story about trans people at all. Really it isn’t. It’s a story about not belonging. Not knowing my place," she later added. "This is just something I wanted to tell you about a woman saying no. And the ways we say no. That’s all it is. That’s the rub. That’s all it takes sometimes."